A former employee of a restaurant in Texarkana, Texas has alleged that he has been fired because of his status as a HIV-positive individual.
Nicholas Watson left his position at Hopkins Icehouse, which now operates under a different name and management team, in March 2019. It was reported in HIV Plus Magazine that the general manager of the restaurant had allegedly told Watson, “we’re worried it’s going to affect business, like revenue.”
HIV Plus Magazine reported that Watson did seek help from the Employment Opportunity Commission, stating the he was always capable of performing his work duties.
The lawsuit filed by Watson and the Employment Opportunity Commission in the Eastern District of Texas has accused Hopkins Icehouse management of violating the Americans With Disabilities Act. The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against people who have disabilities in a number of areas. According to the US Department of Labor these areas include “employment, transportation, public accommodations, communications and access to state and local government programs and services.”
The lawsuit states that terminating Watson involved “malice or reckless indifference” in regards to his federal rights.
The case has been assigned to US District Judge Robert Schroeder III.
This is not the first time stories of discrimination on the basis of one’s HIV status have arisen. The BBC reported in 2017 that Chanse Cox was working as a machine operator at Gregory Packaging in the US state of Georgia when he lost his job as a result of disclosing to his manager that he was HIV-positive.
The BBC reported that “his condition didn’t affect his job performance” and that Cox had filed a complaint with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, who then sued the company for violating the Americans With Disabilities Act, just as Watson has done.
The 2017 incidence was settled with a $125,000 payout to Cox, with Gregory Packaging also agreeing to conduct disability discrimination training at its Georgia facility.